Anxiety Schmanxiety

My anxiety from the last week’s venture into too much socializing never went away. It’s worse right now as I’m in the middle of a med change as well. Sigh. It’s my life with bipolar to always be in a med change. And mood switches. Both of which lead to increased anxiety. No wonder I’m always anxious. I’m so much more anxious right now. My thoughts are jumbled too. Racing, but jumbled too. My prn only works to a small degree. Sigh.

My therapist wants me to relax. I told him I don’t know how. I’ve always been on edge, even as a child. Always oriented to the next thing, never resting on my laurels. Maybe for a few minutes, but always focused on what the next hurdle or life event would be. That’s what I’m doing now. I’m over anticipating a manic August. I get them every other year or so, and this is a manic year, if all goes according to history. I’m scared shitless. I could just as easily stabilize with the new meds and be fine. Or I could go off the deep end with delusions and lying and risky behavior. Both are probable in my mind. I’m doing way too much future-telling whether a stable one or a manic one. And don’t forget I could go against type and end up depressed. My moods do what they will. I have no control over them. The only constant is anxiety through it all.

Anxiety Schmanxiety. I just looked at a new apartment complex near my family’s house. A first floor one-bedroom is ridiculous! It’s more expensive than the luxury apartments a mile away. But I really won’t know how much I have to spend until I know what if anything I owe in taxes for 2018, and therefore, what I need to set aside in 2019. Anxiety schmanxiety. So my mom recommended we wait until after Christmas season and then see where everything stands. Tax season would start and then I would know more. So I guess I’m in my family’s house for the long haul at this point. I guess that’s ok. Not what I expected, but I guess what I need. That time frame gives me time to get into cooking more for myself and getting back into healthy routines. I haven’t worked out this week. Just haven’t felt up to it. But I need that structure.

Please let me know if my posts make sense together, or if just each paragraph makes sense, or if even each paragraph seems scattered. My therapist and I were analyzing artwork that was indicative of a jumbled mind. I want to know if my writing is jumbled too. I feel it is.

A Hopeful Few Days

Well, I’m still depressed. But the anxiety has a reason! I saw a new psychiatrist last night. His theory is that I get more anxious when my mood changes. And since I’ve had so many mood changes over the last many years, that would produce more anxiety. And the times that I went in to the hospital with anxiety that led to suicidal ideation, I was having mood changes. So, besides social anxiety over the past several days, I am in a mood change. Which I thought. I didn’t start feeling depressed until I had been anxious for a couple days. Then there was some suicidal thinking, but nothing to worry about. Just thoughts.

He also increased my antipsychotic, is thinking of increasing one of my anti-convulsants, and stopped my anti-depressant which will just add to my anxiety he said. I agree, but it seemed to be the drug that worked to make me stable the last month. He said it may have brought me out of a depression, but ultimately won’t work to keep me out of one. Since it costs so much any way, I’ll go with him. He also wants me to consider an injection of an antipsychotic that lasts a month at a time. It’s a drug I’ve been on before with disastrous weight gain and very little if any effect on my mood. But the injection is very different he said. The research I did seemed like it would still cause weight gain. Having just passed the 30 lbs lost mark, I don’t really want to make it Harder to lose weight! But I’ll think about it.

I left thinking there were treatment options and that he had my best self in mind. I can like and trust him with my mental health.

Today I saw a new spiritual director. I haven’t seen anyone formally in close to 10 years I think. A pastor acted as one informally but more as a spiritual friend, which technically is what a spiritual director is… I shared with her the torn identity I have between my ordination history and nurture, and the new place I am, which is not feeding me as well as I hoped. I talked. She listened. She heard that I very much wanted to act on the great compassion I felt for the world. She heard that I was searching for who I am. These are things that I have discussed with my therapist ad nauseaum, but not in those exact words. It’s great when the two people you share your innermost life with are on the same page!

I’ve lost a sense of my contemplative side and of who I am and want to be in the world. I’m running in different directions trying to find places to volunteer only to have doors and windows slammed in my face, all saying not now. I guess it’s time to figure out who I am. I’ve made drastic choices to get help by moving here. By not having to think about some aspects of living because I don’t live alone, I have the opportunity to figure out who I am, even if I’m not stable. And I’m not. I’m depressed again. At least I know the feeling. I can summon some energy to act human.

Racing Thoughts and Feeling Better?

My mood is better than the last few days – I think. I can’t tell with these racing thoughts. Mid-afternoon coffee didn’t help my anxiety or racing thoughts, but that’s what I did. Now I have to live with the consequences. Darn that caffeine addiction!

I no longer want to kill myself. I didn’t have to call my therapist or psychiatrist about that one. I made the decision that I’m not going to do anything. I think I was able to do that because I was already feeling better. In the midst of trying to manage anxiety and depression, I get caught up in the pain, and death seems the only way out. It’s a very, very dark place.

I’m in a lighter, more rapid place now. I still feel a little depression. Mostly I feel anxious and spinning in my thoughts. It’s hard to pinpoint them through the constant earworms. I’ve tried a prn several times for the anxiety and racing thoughts, to no avail. I just end up tired, with only a little reduction in anxiety. Maybe it’s the wrong anti-anxiety med again, since I’m not taking it regularly anymore. Maybe now I need a fast-acting one with a shorter half-life since I’m taking it for bouts of anxiety. Something to ask my new psychiatrist tomorrow.

Spiritual angst still plagues me. I see a spiritual director for a meet and greet on Wednesday. I wish some wisdom would magically fall from the sky and I wouldn’t feel so torn all the time about the polar tugs. Do I keep my ordination identity, or do I move on? Or do I eschew spiritual practice altogether until there is some resolution? These are just some of my racing thoughts.

I wanted to focus on acceptance of the new stable mood I found myself in, and leaning into it instead of questioning when the other shoe of a mood switch would drop. Well, I think it did, and I’m depressed again. I keep hoping I’ll wake up and be stable again. I think that’s a realistic hope. I might find stable again. Or I’ll be stuck here until the inevitable August mania occurs. Why do I think the mood shifts are so predictable and ubiquitous? I expect to feel poorly and to suffer with one or the other. Is it because my whole experience of bipolar so far has been in a mood state? Unbalanced mood is the only bipolar I know. Until now. Now I’ve experienced a sense of stability and happiness that I hadn’t know for decades. And now I feel I wasted it by waiting for the other shoe to drop. How careless of me!

Where Did This Come From?

I think I’m feeling depressed. I know I’m anxious, and have been taking prn’s to combat it. The racing thoughts I was getting were part of the anxiety of attending so many events with people I don’t know. But depression? I started feeling desperate to make the pain stop and thinking about suicide. I really hope this is a blip, and I’ll go back to feeling stable. It’s possible that the anxiety brought on the feelings of desperation and then the suicidal thoughts. That happened quite a lot when I was hospitalized regularly.

I was going to blog about acceptance of the stability I find myself in, and observing what it is like and what it has to teach me. But here I am. Destabilized for now. I hope it’s a short time. At least I know what to look for as far as taking care of myself.

Trusting Myself

In this time of mood stability – a month now! – I’ve been trying to observe what being in between mood states is like. I haven’t been doing a very good job of observing. I keep anticipating the next mood shift to depression or to mania (August is the time of year for a manic episode), instead of focusing on what is happening now, what this mood state in the middle is like. I’m not at a pole; I’m not even trending toward a pole. I’m feeling a range of feelings. In fact I felt depression for a couple days earlier this week, and it passed quickly. I feel anxious now with all the social anxiety of trying to meet new people. The anxiety brought on racing thoughts, which are not a symptom of mania for me, but of anxiety, something I live with every day.

My wise therapist – I have a knack for picking them that way; I’m lucky! – asked me why I haven’t blogged about acceptance of this stable mood state, what it is like, what I’m feeling. He also asked how much uncomfortability I could tolerate to accept it and examine it so that we would know what it was like when I switch, eventually, to another mood state. He also asked me how much I trust myself.

The last time I fully trusted myself was in college, lo! these 25 years ago. I was in the throes of bipolar coming on with mania, hypomania, psychosis and a little depression. No one saw it and thought I should get treatment. I wasn’t in an environment that saw mental illness or sometimes even disbelieved in it entirely. It was a spiritual problem, if recognized as a problem, and all that meant was that a person needed to get right with God, confess sins, and do the right thing. Not a helpful response to a serious mental illness. But I digress.

I was in the throes of bipolar onset in those tender years of 17-20 when I was in college. I ran headlong into jobs, changes in majors, a new life direction, a new worldview, relationships and friendships, and political and religious shifts toward the progressive. I was behaving all the ways young, naïve, energy-driven, immortal people behave. I just had a mental illness on top of it. But I trusted myself. I didn’t second guess what I wanted. I mooned over guys. I debated with friends, knowing my position well. I yearned for the future I was working toward. I made decisions with little thought of consequences. I trusted myself to make good decisions. I didn’t second-guess myself.

That all changed after I got engaged, married, went to seminary, had an internship and then worked as a youth director. I was a pastor that second-guessed all my decisions, from the smallest to the biggest. I felt an imposter in my whole adult life.

I didn’t trust myself during my protracted illness for the last 8 years. I learned – and practiced! – coping skills. I built-in a rhythm and routines into my life. I always took my medication, even when I was severely depressed and suicidal, or when I was manic (and didn’t know it, cuz that’s how mania works…). I went to the hospital when I was suicidal. I expected a lot in return for the efforts I made to change my life for bipolar. I expected to find stability, somewhere in the middle where I felt good and could take on the driving forces to DO something again. Because I was trying so hard, I was disappointed every day that nothing changed. I was at one pole or another, never in the middle experiencing a range of emotions and life experiences.

Now my mood is in the middle, because of medications, or because of the routines and rhythms, or because I expect less of myself (e.g., work, volunteer jobs, socialization). A combination of all three probably, though being on the right cocktail is probably the most effective since I’ve been doing the others For Years! I’m at a place where I should trust myself because I have done all the right things to take care of myself. I can trust myself to continue doing the right things.

But it’s a 25-year-old problem of not trusting myself to make the right decisions. The second guessing I’m doing is that I will slip back into a mood pole for no reason, and there won’t be anything I can do to bring it back. This middle place is so unfamiliar. How do I enjoy it without questioning it every morning when I wake up? How do I find it again if (when???) I slip back into a mood pole?

Join me the next week as I try to unravel what this stability is like and how I can enjoy it, not pressing too hard to take advantage of it, but to lean into it and enjoy it.

Stability?

All I want to do is tuck in and watch movies all day. I cancelled on going to a dinner with strangers because it was “too far” in commute traffic. It probably is a long drive, but that is beside the point. I don’t want to do anything. I don’t even want to sleep. I’m just numb.

Is this what stability is like? Is this what it is like when the new, shiny-ness of stability has worn off? Maybe I am in shock. That is what this numb feeling is like. My mood might be a little depressed, but that’s just based on anhedonia, the lack of ability to feel positive things, like enjoyment at doing things you used to find enjoyable.

I don’t want to do any navel-gazing introspection. I’m not sure I would find anything right now, to be honest. I don’t want to make art. I’m not inspired by anything right now. I don’t want to hang out with people, though there is no one to hang out with. I don’t want to go sightseeing, though I looked up some stuff in the area and even found free, indoor things to do.

I’m forcing myself to eat and to work out for half an hour a day. But I’m lazy the rest of the time, and so I’m not sure how good a half hour of exercise really is. I also applied for another volunteer job, but I’m having a hard time following through with the background check forms I have to fill out now, as well as showing up for a training today. I don’t think I missed anything though, since I just applied on Saturday, and it will take 4-6 weeks for the child abuse prevention check. I can take a training closer to the time when I would start. But I still don’t want to do anything.

Is this the me of stability? I’m not sure I like it.

A Unique Time

My mood has been stable for 3 weeks now. No depression, no mania. Just somewhere in the middle, rather happy. I also still have a clear mind, no more racing thoughts, a highly irregular occurrence. I can’t remember EVER when my thoughts haven’t been racing. (Like the double negative there? I couldn’t figure out how to say it otherwise…)

I’m really loving this feeling of happy. I wish I had been in this place before. It’s been 8 years since diagnosis, and I’ve been in and out of the hospital with depression or mania since then. Depression has been my most common companion. When I started feeling depressed last month, I knew the feeling. I was used to the feeling. I could function well enough with that feeling although it wasn’t a pleasant existence.

Before diagnosis I don’t remember when I was happy. I was manic right before the first hospitalization for suicidal depression that led to diagnosis. Before mania, I was frustrated with work and frustrated with my marriage. Those were regular and recurring frustrations. I was frustrated with myself for making decisions I wasn’t sure about. Looking back I don’t know when I wasn’t striving for something to be going better. I was never happy. I also always had racing thoughts. Always striving, always thoughts racing, except for the couple times in my life when I was depressed.

This is a unique time in my life when my mood is stable and my thoughts are still. I can tell what I’m thinking and I’m happy. I don’t know this place. It’s uncharted territory for me. Plus l have time to figure out who I am in this new place. Maybe it’s good I don’t have any volunteer jobs right now. Focusing on places to volunteer or where to go to church is a way of striving again. Instead I can spend the time pondering my values and seeing what I like. I’m good at introspection. But I don’t want to just be navel gazing all day. I’m not sure how to do this. And I guess that’s the point, isn’t it? I can make decisions in this clear place, such as how I want to be and how to do things. I’m scared.

Stay tuned for more about being stable.